December 12, 2014
This month, our friend Turtle, who is the coordinator of the Northern Jaguar Project, brought two of our long-time supporters from Santa Fe, Evalyn and David, to show them the Northern Jaguar Reserve. I was fortunate to be able to accompany them on their visit.
We started out with a visit to Bábaco, a ranch that we are raising funds to purchase. With this acquisition, the reserve will increase by 5,000 acres. We checked the motion-triggered cameras at different sites, including La Cienega where we frequently retrieve jaguar photographs. There were no jaguar photos on this visit, but we were able to catch a glimpse of what we believe was an ocelot.
Fortunately, we did not have any setbacks or problems in accessing the sites we visited. The Arroyo Dubaral is a location where we have had jaguar sightings nearly year-round, and this trip was no exception. When we reviewed the memory card for one of the cameras, we found a photo of the female jaguar “Libélula” walking right in front of the camera. This was the first photo we had of Libélula in ten months, so a very welcome surprise.
Another special place we visited was the Río Aros. To reach the river, we walked through the Arroyo Los Chinitos. I was able to fish for a little while, yet the fish I caught were either too small to eat or had too many tiny bones so were returned to the river along with the native fish. We saw a white-tailed deer that crossed the river, and we felt lucky to have this sighting.
Our time on the reserve is always very enjoyable. It is a place that is far away from civilization where we can maintain direct contact with nature. One of the best locations is at Babisal. This is the only place on the reserve where there are sycamores (Platanus wrightii), and they are almost 25 meters high. There are also other trees like Fraxinus sp. and Quercus tuberculata. Evalyn and David had the opportunity to visit the areas that we love so much. David recognized the chiletepines at Babisal, and since he really enjoys spicy food, we stopped to collect some for him.
I am always grateful to meet new people who are interested in protecting biodiversity. I hope Evalyn and David return soon, and that more people like them join us in protecting a feline that is as important as the jaguar.
Later, I met up with Saúl and Laqui to check cameras on the Viviendo con Felinos ranches. While we were at Los Alisos, we spoke with the vaquero and learned that he found the remains of a puma that had been in a fight with a jaguar. More specifically, he had found a puma skull that was destroyed by the jaws of a jaguar. Laqui and I went to the place he described; we knew it was a jaguar kill because of the technique used. This surprised us because a fight between a jaguar and puma is not a frequent occurrence. It made us aware of the jaguar’s power, even if it also left us with some unanswered questions. How could a jaguar surprise a puma (evident from the wounds it suffered and the small amount of defense it showed)? Why was a jaguar hunting a puma? Pumas and jaguars occupy the same territory, and usually without any problems. What changed?
This event reminded me of a time I was in the jungles of southeastern Mexico. The residents often talked about who would win a fight between a jaguar and puma. There were various opinions. Some thought the puma showed more agility, while the jaguar was stronger. Even though it is hard to believe, this was one of the questions on my final college exam. I tried to answer it the most precise way I could. At the end, I found out that it was a joke played by my teacher. He told me that the following day we would find out the answer because the pumas from UNAM were playing the jaguars from Chiapas in Tuxtla Gutierrez… and, by the way, the jaguars won the sporting event. What has stayed with me always is that any carelessness on the part of one of those felines would be fatal.
Until next time,
Javier Valenzuela Amarillas has worked on the Northern Jaguar Reserve and Viviendo con Felinos ranches since 2012. As a jaguar guardian, he helps maintain an extensive network of motion-triggered cameras, inventory the ecological health of the land and water, and work with ranchers to support local wildlife.